Friday, April 27, 2012

Seven Steps to Easier Home Stagings and Showings

The phone rang and our eyes leaped to read the caller Id. If it was our Real Estate company, our feelings were mixed. While we were excited to have showing requests, keeping an immaculate house through daily meals, laundry, and homeschooling was wearying, especially with a preschooler. 

After countless showings though, our family of five has discovered several steps that make showings smoother.

Seven Steps to Easier Home Stagings and Showings with a Family
  1. Turn on the bread machine. Drop in 3 cups flour, 1.5 tsp salt, 2 TB olive oil, 8-9 ounces of hot tap water, 2 tsp sugar and 2 tsp yeast. Select the rapid setting on any standard bread machine and in 1.5 hours, the aroma of hot bread will fill each room with an unconscious sentiment of home. 
  2. Fling open the windows and the deck. No matter how cold it is outside, opening  windows will freshen up your home immensely, even if just for fifteen minutes. 
  3. Delegate duties to each member of the family. When showing requests call in, everyone leaps into action. Each of my teens know which rooms and jobs they have, in addition to roles we all share.
  4. Have familiar stash places for the papers, statements, and bills that haven’t been paid yet. Under pillows or in clothing drawers is helpful.
  5. Buy window cleaning liquid in bulk. It is fabulous for mirrors, ovens, fridges, decks, windows, bathroom tiles, faucets, sinks, glass desks, microwaves windows and more. Nothing makes a clean bathroom wall sparkle faster. (Assuming you have already done the hard work of bleaching and scrubbing earlier, of course.)
  6. Make decorating easy. Keep cut wild flowers or cattails and branches on hand in vases for ready displays in your bathroom and kitchen. Save the special rugs and hand towels that you will use for the showings folded and off to the side, ready for instant deploy. Free yourself from last minute searches for a clean, non-frayed, flawless towel by having it reserved on the side.
  7. Scoop up and carry with you any random items that you haven’t had a chance to put away yet. One friend shared her great idea to bring unfolded or dirty baskets of laundry with you in the car when you leave.We have done that often.
Rejoice with us that our house seems to be sold! The final inspection, appraisal, and last minute papers are completed and signed, awaiting our June closing. Now, we look for our next home… You may join us in praying for that adventure too, if you'd like. Thanks. 

How are YOU this week? How can I pray for you today? Do you have any fabulous home staging/showing advice to pass on?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Speak the Hard Things

Speak the hard things. 

On a cold peeling blue wooden park bench, I shuddered and wrapped my navy sweatshirt around me tighter today. The spring wind was brisk, chilling me as I read. 

She shocks me, this author. In between poetic raw faith musings on family and cancer which grab my mind and echo in me, she breaks into political monologues that are jarring and unfamiliar to me, or irreverent rants. Flipping pages past to family and faith, I read and pick up the story line again.

Speak the hard things. I agree, yet hesitate. Where’s the fine line between sharing the hard and yet not speaking ill of others? But I do remember the liberating hope and encouragement that came in my early years of parenting from hearing other moms share stories of coming undone and unglued. 

On the park bench, I stopped reading to watch my three year old scale a webbed triangular jungle gym. My two teens hung upside down on red metal bars, laughing; their dark hair glinting and swooshing in the sunshine.

“Do you know I love you guys so much?” I yelled out to them. They laughed, exchanged glances and looked back patronizingly at me. “Yes, Mom,” they called back in a patient “Our Mom is such an idiot”-kind of way. 

This weekend was different, though. How can great teens be so rude? How can a happy marriage have such a horrible day? 

Speak the hard things. 

There will be days when your gracious, kind teens will mouth off, have bad attitudes and moan about homework. They will roll their eyes and disagree with your decisions. Conversations will ensue about proper eye and mouth behavior, but the inner hearts will still be angry and sad for a few hours. Dumb things may be said. 

There will be times when happy couples will be stressed and impatient. We will choose our own needs first, sadly, and fall into ruts of communicating for an hour or so, reverting to an unhappy, silent standoff. The night will fall dark and still, the bed will feel wide apart, and the red digital numbers will quietly click off time. “In the silence, a marriage dies…?” I wonder in my melodramatic way. 

“No, Jen,” he says softly in the hot steaming shower the next morning. “We just work harder. We hug, we gently talk; we criticize less. We firmly stop the kids in their own bad habits.” Water runs down, and we breathe deeply. “We’re not dying.” 

Hugs, quiet cuddling on the couch, concentrated efforts to put the other person first, and to affirm. Criticism is curbed, checked; cut off while still on the lips. I retrain my mind, my impulses, and think of Roses and Sit Ups

Gentle kisses, lingering hugs, and hope unfurls. 

The rainy cold day passes. My sister arrives for a coffee date. Over thick fudgy chocolate cake, and then again over cardboard coffee cups, we talk. I venture out raw but vague. Later under a dripping raindrop windshield she prays for me, squeezing my knee. Yellow daffodils bob in the gentle rain outside. 

A weekend of gentle kindness and grace unfurls beauty and strength and joy in a marriage-- and in the family. A teen apologizes. A couple cuddles and talks. 
All’s well with the world again.

Thank you, Abba.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

There's a Happy Gamer Somewhere

“Mom, can I stay up a little bit later to read my Bible?” 

What a rascally thing to ask! What mother can say no to that? 

It was past her bedtime, but she was emotional and distraught from a mini-fiasco in her computer game, losing all her rare items in one accidental trade. Frantic phone flurries and digital requests for the items back were to no avail. Red-cheeked and adrenaline-surging, she relayed the story to me, and I commiserated with her. We hugged and I prayed with her for bed. 

“Can I read your Bible, Mom? Mine is in the bedroom with Daniel and I don’t want to wake him up.” 

Morgan grabbed my burgundy-covered Bible and disappeared into my room. Ten minutes later she bounced back into the living room. 

Mom! I have so much joy! Isn’t it cool how the Bible does that? She went on to talk about some verses in Psalm that grabbed her attention and her heart. Dancing from one foot to the next, she gushed, “Thanks, Mom,” as we hugged.

“Weren’t our hearts just burning within us while he talked?” the pedestrians on the road to Emmaus asked each other in the ancient Roman Empire. My husband is practicing his sermon for this Sunday’s Graduation Youth Sunday, so we have been reading and re-reading this text. I have often wished to have been part of that seven mile jaunt out of Jerusalem that day, wanting to hear that fabulous conversation where the newly-resurrected Jesus talked for hours, revealing panoramic truths about himself from throughout the Old Testament. Wow, to have the Godhead walk with me and make his scripture come alive! “Weren’t our hearts just burning within us while he talked?” they exclaimed. 

My husband and I were reminded this week that we DO have the Godhead walking beside us and making his scripture come alive in us through the Holy Spirit. That’s part of the Holy Spirit's job description.

Sorry for the quiet couple of days here at Jottings from Jennifer. We have been busy with the dance of offer and counter-offers on our house, and all the accompanying paperwork. While I am definitely excited, I am also feeling fear, worry, and emotionally weary.

So, pardon me as I pick up my Bible and take a walk with the Godhead.

What about you? What have you been experiencing or thinking about this week? What do you do when you feel emotionally weary?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Recovered Diamond

Upswept blonde hair twirled into a loose French bun revealed classic pearl earrings and the back view of her face. A grandson bounced on her lap as she sang “Holy is the Lord God Almighty,” pausing to wipe tears from her cheeks in the chorus. 

Minutes earlier, after the first rousing song and when the whole church congregation stood to shake hands and talk, she leaned back, taking my hand and drawing me close to talk. 

“Toby* said he accepted Christ this Friday!” came her soft voice. More details came, confirming those words, and tears came to my eyes for this new teen male that I had been praying for and just getting to know this year. 

His baleful eyes had grabbed my attention as soon as we met their family. He reminded me of so many in my life that I care for and pray hard for. My husband and I talked with him whenever we could, hoping to coax smiles and comfortableness in him.  Toby was polite but hated being there. We prayed hard, and sincerely enjoyed talking with him whenever we could. He thrilled and shocked us when he started coming to youth group on Wednesday nights. 

Now this morning, his mom leaned close, silver blonde hair swept up, and my tears swept out.  “Wow, thank you, God!” I didn’t know why I was crying, since I had only known Toby for a short time, but we had been praying earnestly for him. 

In the Bible, there is the familiar story of the young woman who lost one of her ten silver coins. I was reminded recently that those coins were part of her headdress, announcing that she was married. The coins were costly and significant, similar to our wedding rings and diamonds. 

When the woman discovered it missing, she ransacked her house, trying to recover her missing wedding coin. The coin was irreplaceable and invaluable, so she didn’t give up until it was safe and found.

 It took time. It weighed on her heart and mind. She never gave up.

This weekend, a diamond has been recovered, and its value is huge! 

Do you have someone you are praying for? I would be honored to pray with you for them. Feel free to simply mention them by one letter. (For example, J or S.) I have many loved ones and dear friends that I pray for too, in a humble, respectful way. May I pray with you for them or for something this week?

*Toby is not his real name. Photo credits to Microsoft clip art too.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trying to Be a Good Mom

Silence descends on our home now. I flip on soothing music, cut some cheese wedges, and curl up next to the computer.  

It’s hard work being a mom.  

In stress and angst over school, schedules, or their social life, my teens’ emotions can escalate. Sadly, mine do too. 

We have had real estate home showings the last three nights in a row – for which we are thankful—but the interruptions to homeschooling and the constant cleaning take their toll too. 

Yesterday I was crabby. One of my kids was having a rough time with a subject and was consequently sending ripple effects of anger and angst around them. Stirring rich red curry on a white stove top, trying not to spill any for the upcoming showing, we read through sentences about electromagnetism. 

Today after two hours of showings, we returned to a spotless home, and resumed homework. Another kid and I sparred about homework expectations and freedoms. 
It’s hard work being a mom. 

Pausing the cyclical battling conversation with one of my teens, I trundled up my toddler, prepared him for bed, and kissed him good night. Walking back into the living room to an angry teen, I silently prayed and checked my own heart and attitude.  “Jesus, I don’t want to be angry so often. I don’t want these battles. Help me to be a great mom, a great teacher, and a great follower of you.” 

This morning’s Bible study lesson kept springing to mind. Old Testament prophet Jonah was throwing a temper tantrum with the God of the universe, and God asked him, Have you any right to be angry?”

Do you have the right to be angry here, Jen? 

The funny thing is that… I would have probably been miffed in Jonah’s place too. His pride was on the line and he may have just seemed discredited to his peers and a watching nation. His professionalism might have seemed tarnished now too. Pride again. 

Yet God asked him again, “Do you have any right to be angry?” 

So walking back into my living room, I realized how often I felt crabby and angry lately, even for seemingly accepted reasons.  I didn’t want to be like that. Often it had to do with my pride too. Do you have any right to be angry, Jen?

Nope. Not really. The God of the universe loved me. His gifts stack high around me in family; friends; life; breath; pulsing, vivid grass, blossoms, trees; imminent lilacs… 

Pulling up the office chair next to my teen, I started with a shoulder hug, and a humble quiet voice. “Hey, I really want to be a good mom and a good teacher here. Let’s talk…” 

The tension visibly melted in both of us. Stresses, motivators, and deeper triggered issues were brought up. Humbly, slowly, we clicked on the screen and worked together. The angst faded away, replaced with light laughter and peace. 

Thank you, Abba, for restoration, for calm, for a changed attitude in me. Teach me, please. Teach us. 

Hi friend. What have you been thinking about this week? What are you learning? 

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Curtains: An Easter Visual

Curtains have been on my mind this week. I accidentally shredded a yellow striped shower curtain on Saturday. Racing to the store after church on Sunday, I chose and bought a new shower curtain, installing it just before a real estate home showing that afternoon. 

In church that day, the pastor touched on a passage in Hebrews that has always grabbed my attention. While he went a different route with his sermon, my thoughts were riveted by words penciled into my Bible margins. There are three Greek words that mean “new”…

In Hebrews 10, the author speaks of curtains. 

For Resurrection Sunday, my mind ponders two curtains. 

The first curtain is the heavy cloth curtain that used to hang in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem around 30 AD. Thick, heavy and many feet long, the curtain separated the Creator’s holiest presence from humans. The Holy of Holies room was entered only once a year, and only by a priest after he had undergone elaborate ceremonial cleaning rites. Coming before God’s holy presence was such a sacred responsibility that unrepentant sin could easily trigger death for the man. For such a worst case scenario, the priest tied a rope to his body. If he were struck down, other temple workers could safely pull his body out of the Holy of Holies room. 

During Jesus’ death on the cross, a miracle happened. Untouched by human hands, the heavy temple curtain was torn top to bottom, tearing aside the last separation between God and man. 

In Hebrews 10, the author spoke of another curtain. Choosing from three possible Greek words for “new,” he painted a vivid image.  

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain…

Would the author use neos which means new but similar

Would he use kainos which means new but different

No, the author of Hebrews used prosphatos which meant freshly-slain new

A freshly-slain new curtain has been opened to us, ushering us into God’s presence. 

This Easter weekend, I stand humbled before my Jesus, thankful, tearful, joyful.

 19Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23)